Explore the producer’s story and discover the wines featured in our selection.
Behind these big wooden doors, in the heart of the sleepy village of Rorschwihr, lie the wines of Rolly Gassmann; an unassuming location, but home to one of the region’s finest and most respected producers.
Like many of the great Domaines in Alsace, Rolly Gassmann has a history that goes back many centuries. While its origins can be traced back to 1611, this estate has a more modern twist.
Back then the Rolly and Gassmann families were separate, both leading lights in the production of Alsace wine. The two component parts finally came together with the marriage in 1967 of Marie-Thérèse (Rolly) and Louis (Gassmann). Today they still run the business with their (second) son Pierre.
“Alsace is one of the great, under-appreciated treasures of the wine world. This pretty enclave of fairytale villages in the lee of the forested Vosges Mountains offers a wide range of varietally labelled wines” Jancis Robinson MW
Alsace, historically Elsass, was originally part of Germany and to this day the village names and architecture constantly remind you of this Germanic heritage. In addition are the trademark tall green bottles and the prominence of the Riesling grape (although, its wines are typically drier and more full bodied in style). Gerwurztraminer (very French though without the umlaut) and Pinot Gris (known as Tokay d’Alsace until the Hungarians pointed to the confusion with Tokaji) also feature as important grapes varieties.
This eastern corner of France has more than favourable geography for the production of quality grapes. Despite its relatively northern location, Alsace is in fact the driest and warmest region in France after the Mediterranean.
The Vosges mountains to the west act as a rain shadow; meanwhile, mountains to the east complete a bowl-like effect in which summer heat is trapped in low lying areas. This special microclimate is perfect for producing ripe healthy fruit.
The combining of the two family estates means Rolly Gassmann have 45 hectares of vineyards to their name. Sites are spread across Roschwihr, Silberberg, Kappelweg, Pflaenzerreben (all renowned for Riesling); Rotleibel (very good Pinot Gris); Oberer Weingarten and Stegreben (for Gewurztraminer). There is an amazing tapestry of (21 different) soil types, including limestone, sandstone, granite and silt.
There are a number of factors which have always drawn us to Gassmann, not least the sheer quality and consistency of their wines over many, many years.
They work to biodynamic principles and although they produce about 25,000 cases annually they carry a remarkable 80,000 cases + in old reserve stocks (tell that to the accountant!). This allows them to make quite regular releases into the market of wonderful “library” stock (such as the superb 2002 Gewurztraminer we enjoyed at WineTrust recently).
The main reason for this is that a significant proportion of their wines are sold in top quality restaurants and they feel that access to more mature bottle-aged wines is essential to service that market. This also partly explains why their wines carry a little more residual sugar than average in Alsace – not that you would always notice given their superb balance and fruit intensity.
THE WINES OF ROLLY GASSMANN
The cellars are split into two main areas – with a mix of large old oak barrels and modern stainless steel tanks, which Pierre says gives them the better of two worlds – in terms of wine styles and blending options.
Wines are left to ferment at their own slow pace, with plenty of lees contact which contributes towards the classic textural and hedonistic qualities of so much of the Gassmann portfolio. It is not unusual, for many of the wines to remain in cask/tank until the following September prior to bottling.
Deep yellow colour, really rich and spicy nose with notes of quince. Quince also features on the palate – really concentrated and textural. There is a good lick of residual sugar, but not sweet or heavy in any regard. Lovely soft spice overlay and a moreish quality, with a long and velvety finish.
Serve with mildly spicy fish and white meat dishes – eg a green curry. Also Thai spiced fish soup with lemongrass and coconut. Rich enough to go with a pâté starter (and toast) for a change!
Fine citric, zesty nose and palate – plenty of lemon and lime with a steely edge, tempered by balanced residual sugar making for an off-dry style. Lovely touch of soft spice rounds off the textural and balanced mouth feel
Serve with any rich or oily fish dish, even if gently spiced, and especially if served with elements of lime and coriander.
Remarkable intensity and purity – and drinks like the distilled essence (tropical fruit, lychee and soft spice) of the Gewurztraminer grape itself, but with a nice lick of sweetness.
The grapes include a proportion of late harvested (known as Vendange Tardive natively). The style is therefore ripe and rich, very textural and exotic, with almost a medium dry level of residual sugar, but with wonderfully fresh acidity for balance.
A natural partner to lightly spiced Asian cooking – perfect with Chicken Korma for example.